UW-Madison Wisconsin Institutes For Medical Research (WIMR) Center Tower

​​Project Number: #02G1S 

Art Budget:$267,000 (Expected to cover all design and fabrication expenses associated with the project.)

Eligibility Criteria: This commission opportunity is open to artists living in the continental United States who demonstrate that they have completed one or more commissions with a budget of $200,000 or more.  Applicants who do not provide an image and documentation of having successfully completed commissions of this budget size will not be considered.

Art Schedule

Design due: Summer 2011

Installation: TBD, pending location

Building completion: October 2013

Architects: Zimmerman Architectural Studios, Inc. Milwaukee, WI.

The University

The University of Wisconsin-Madison is comprised of fourteen schools and colleges, with a student population approaching 40,000.  It consistently ranks among the top educational institutions in the country. The campus has a long tradition of interdisciplinary cooperation, resulting in both strong research and academic programs. http://www.wisc.edu/.

The Wisconsin Institutes for Medical Research Center Tower Project is the second of three major phases of the Wisconsin Institutes for Medical Research (WIMR).  The primary project goals of the WIMR facility continue to be the unification of the UW School of Medicine and Public Health program on the west campus proximate to the University Hospital (CSC), the Waisman Center (a research center that focuses on human development), the School of Pharmacy and the Health Science Learning Center. The completion of WIMR Phase I began the physical and programmatic links amongst these buildings, establishing the foundation for a vibrant interdisciplinary and translational medical research environment. Phase II, the Center Tower, will continue the consolidation of medical research labs and programs critical to the long term success of these goals.  The WIMR will serve as the heart of a research complex designed to bring together human and technological resources in a facility that is in close proximity to inpatient and outpatient health care services housed in the nearby University Hospital, thereby, allowing future building occupants to pursue translational and interdisciplinary research. Research currently dispersed throughout the campus is being consolidated into this facility. The new WIMR will allow for a rapid translation from the research bench to the patient bedside in the University Hospital. http://www.med.wisc.edu/facilities/wimr/wisconsin-institutes-for-medical-research/957

The 195,800 ASF/266,000 GSF center tower consists of a seven-story laboratory tower on a three-story base. Phase I constructed the original Interdisciplinary Research Complex which consists of five floors of wet laboratory space and two floors of imaging research facilities. Phase I has been completed and final lab occupancies occurred in 2009. The center tower construction will also include a portion of the base building not completed during Phase I and the seven story circulation corridor element that will connect the east (Phase I) tower with the center tower and ultimately the west (Phase III) tower.​

The seven research laboratory floors of Phase II will be occupied by the Eye Research Institute, Departments of Oncology, Cardiovascular and Regenerative Sciences, Molecular Medicine and Neurosciences research groups.

Eye Research Institute: The UW Eye Research Institute fosters a multidisciplinary community of scholars working to gain critical knowledge about the science and art of vision and apply it to the prevention of blindness. Advances in understanding the causes of eye disease, identifying people at risk, and discovering new treatments promise an end to the greatest threats to sight. Without improvements in preventing and treating eye diseases, the number of blind or visually impaired Americans 40 and older will grow from 3.4 to 5.5 million in 2020. The UW Eye Research Institute is the catalyst for vision research leading to new treatments, helping to reduce visual impairment and the costs associated with treating and caring for those with eye disease.

Scientific, medical and societal challenges require novel collaborations among experts from diverse disciplines that transcend the conventional boundaries of departments and schools. These collaborations also establish bridges between the university and relevant portions of the private sector. Diseases know no geographical or administrative boundaries and neither should their solutions. In response, the University of Wisconsin has been a pioneer in establishing interdisciplinary institutes and centers to grapple with difficult problems. The UW Eye Research Institute is one of the newest endeavors to bring together widely different disciplines. Institute members are committed to the development of new knowledge, the advancement of new technologies, and the rapid application of innovative approaches to significant healthcare issues.

Solutions for blinding diseases and related neurological disorders require partnerships between an assortment of scientists, from biochemists and neuroscientists to computational scientists and engineers. This community of scholars embraces emerging scientific disciplines as well as the visual arts, recognizing that visual perception, both during the processing of normal cues as well as confounding optical and perceptual illusions, provides important clues about the organization and dysfunctions of the brain. In turn, advancements in the vision sciences will enhance knowledge in other areas of science and medicine. The UW Eye Research Institute provides a new forum in which faculty and students can pose their most difficult questions and distill their best ideas.

Department of Oncology: The McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (also the Department of Oncology at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health) was founded by Harold P. Rusch, MD, in 1940 and was the first basic science cancer center in an academic institution in the United States.

The central mission of the McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research is twofold: 1) To pursue outstanding research programs directed toward understanding the causes and biology of cancer and the factors that regulate normal and neo-plastic growth and differentiation; and 2) To provide training of the highest quality in basic cancer research at the graduate and postdoctoral levels

While these two goals represent the cornerstone of the department's activities, the McArdle Lab also seeks to provide medical students with a foundation in basic cancer biology and to serve the public and scientific community through activities for national and international organizations.

Investigators at the McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research pursue a variety of approaches to increase our understanding of the biology and causes of cancer. A few of the recent advances made at the Laboratory, with an emphasis on the potential impact of these results for the treatment or prevention of human cancer, have been made in the following areas:

  • Cervical Cancer— potential findings could lead to preventative treatments that would decrease the prevalence of cervical cancer. 
  • Breast Cancer—observations that a particular drug may reduce the risk for development of breast cancer. 
  • Colon Cancer—observations that a particular drug may reduce the risk or delay the development of colon tumors.

Department of Cardiovascular Medicine: Cardiovascular diseases remain the leading cause of death in both men and women across the nation despite remarkable progress in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the heart and blood vessels. Over 130 researchers, physicians and educators from more than 30 specialties strive to reduce the incidence and effects of these debilitating diseases by developing new, more effective approaches to treatment and prevention and reducing the time it takes to “translate” new discoveries from laboratories to the aid of patients. UW’s success in these areas is a result of its unique approach to research. A cross-section of investigators from many scientific fields collaborate to focus efforts in combating one disease, which allows researchers--studying independently and in concert--to examine the effects of cardiovascular disease, to track it on the most basic cellular levels, and to explore new strategies for treatment.

Significant strides have already been made in better understanding heart disease by creating an environment for basic science and clinical investigators to collaborate. Research is taking a number of different avenues to optimize cardiac repair, utilizing a broad-based interdisciplinary approach:

  • A team of researchers is working to unlock the genetic code and improve the lives of millions
  • Scientists are developing more sensitive and reliable ways to measure cardiovascular functions
  • Scientists and researchers are studying genetic causes of cardiovascular diseases
  • Scientists and researchers are looking at the cellular and molecular changes disease induces in heart muscle cells

Department of Molecular Medicine: Those studying molecular medicine conduct research in Neuroscience, Cardiologic Research and Molecular Proteomics and includes faculty from the departments of Medicine-Cardiology, Anatomy-Neuroscience, Neurology, Neurosurgery, Pharmacology, and Physiology-Cardiology/Neurology.  This group uses state-of-the-art neuro-imaging tools (functional MRI and PET) to examine the human brain during cognitive tasks or emotional states. Other faculty employs animal models to investigate brain substrates of motivated behavior, such as feeding, sexual behavior, aggression, stress responses, and drug-seeking behavior. Molecular neuroscientists seek to understand the development and function of the nervous system at the level of individual molecules and macromolecular complexes. This broad field encompasses researchers utilizing a variety of approaches to explore issues ranging from the structure and function of individual molecules to the molecular basis of behavior. To perform these studies many researchers are taking a multidisciplinary approach applying protein biochemistry, molecular cloning, site directed mutagenesis, trans-genesis, patch clamping, single and multi-photon microscopy, as well as other bio-photonic based methods.

Department of Neuroscience: Nervous system disorders affect tens of millions of Americans and cost hundreds of billions of dollars. Hundreds of different disorders of the brain and nervous system exist including depression, schizophrenia, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease and autism. But because of the complexity of the brain and nervous system, more research is needed to understand the mechanisms of nervous system disorders. The research programs of the more than 170 neuroscientists on Madison campus are advancing understanding of the nervous system across levels ranging from molecular mechanisms to human behavior, and include major contemporary thematic areas such as learning and memory, development, sensory and motor systems, sleep and consciousness, cognition and affect, appetitive behaviors, plasticity, and neurobiology of disease. Translational research is a major focus of neuroscience on the Madison campus, and includes investigators in both basic and clinical departments, so that breakthroughs made will form the basis for developing new drugs and therapeutic treatments for neural disorders.

The Center Tower phase of the Wisconsin Institutes for Medical Research (WIMR) Building Project approach incorporates the following sustainability practices: construction material recycling, day-lighting, substantial heat recovery, robust building automation controls, an accessible green roof and low maintenance landscape features. The project will be LEED certified as a requirement of the received NIH grant funding. 

The materials palette for the WIMR facility was selected to develop a cohesive image for the West Campus utilizing materials common to the surrounding facilities. Therefore the building envelope consists of architectural precast concrete, stone, brick, metal louver, and metal and glass curtain wall, continuous from Phase I.

Each laboratory floor in this project includes twelve modules per floor each consisting of the following: a Research Laboratory, and Laboratory Faculty Offices located along the exterior window wall which have direct access to natural light, while Post Doc/Grad Student/Flexible Open Workstations have access to borrowed light entering from glass curtain windows and interior clerestory windows. [image]  Window treatments will vary the amount of natural light necessary to the various users’ immediate needs in the laboratory or office spaces.  Darkrooms, Tissue Culture Rooms, and Cold Rooms avoid access to natural light. Lighting is controlled by motion detectors. The use of day lighting will reduce the need for electric lighting of building interiors, resulting in decreased energy use. It also provides the occupants of the building a connection between the indoor spaces and the outdoors.

On each floor common interaction spaces include two conference rooms (300 ASF) and (600 ASF) per floor and a Collaboration/Break Area. Each two adjoining floors are interconnected via the two story Collaboration space to further encourage interaction across a range of researchers and their staff. [image] 

On each of the seven floors, a circulation corridor element connects the east and central towers and will connect to the future west tower. This seven story corridor element has a south–facing glass curtain wall with a recessed accent element that extends over five floors.  The accent element is located opposite the north facing windows center between the east and central towers and overlooking the wedge landscape element below, creating a visual flow-through site-line.  The south facing wall also has shading louvers to address solar heat gain.

A substantial outdoor space in the wedge between the east and center towers is the primary site design opportunity of the Center Tower phase. The wedge shaped area between the two building towers is defined by the level two roof garden area and an at-grade landscape area adjacent to Highland Avenue. The level two north facing roof top garden overlooks the 1918 marsh. This roof garden will contain a mix of traditional perennial plantings along with more standard roof top plant species as well as seating areas organized to encourage group use.  Artwork that might be sited in this roof-top garden will be subject to strict weight restrictions.

The lowest area adjacent to Highland Avenue will contain a Rain Garden. This rain garden will mitigate the storm water runoff from the surrounding hard surface paving and planted areas. Areas around the rain garden will be organized to provide additional bicycle and moped parking areas as well as grassy and seating areas for surrounding building occupants to utilize for seating and gathering. This area will be a third outdoor seating area continuing the success of the first two outdoor areas created during phase I but will establish a softer, more natural environment.

The loading and service area for the building is located along the west side of the second tower. The lower landscape area conceals the loading and service areas behind screen walls and also serves as a visual buffer toward Highland Avenue; these sloped lawn areas will contain multiple rows of shade trees and ornamental trees.


The primary audience for the center tower will be the faculty research scientists, graduate and post graduate researchers and related support staff. In addition, nursing, medical school students, UW Hospital staff will pass through the first floor central atrium space as they enter UW Hospital for work and classes. The selection committee is interested in artwork that relates to or tells the story of the process of translational research- from discovery to application that occurs in this building.  Both interior and exterior sites will be considered.

Possible Locations: The selection committee has identified both interior and exterior potential locations and is open to sites that artists may identify. 

Interior locations:

  1. First floor central atrium lobby corridor in East tower, approximately 40- 80ft long x 30 ft wide. [image]
  2. North facing conference rooms or collaboration spaces on each of the 7 laboratory floors; this may include window treatments or interior artwork. [image] [image]
  3. Glass or floor treatment in the recessed glass wall accent area facing south. Artwork in this location will be visible from Highland Ave, the rooftop garden and the lower rain garden area on the north. [image] [image] [image]

Exterior potential sites: 

  1. Along the main entrance walkway next to the east tower.  
  2. Level two rooftop garden (some weight restrictions will apply). [image] 
  3. The at-grade lower garden area at Highland Ave. [image]
  4. The north facing brick wall. [image]

Conceptual considerations: The selection committee is interested in artwork relates to or tells the story of the process of translational research- from discovery to application; that reflects or expresses what occurs in this building. The selection committee is interested in artwork that may: 

  • Metaphorically connect researchers and the clinicians or break down barriers between them. 
  • Alter light through the 5 story recessed accent element in the glass curtain wall connecter.  
  • Introduce a human element into the modernist architecture or serve as a counterpoint to  geometry of the architecture. 
  • Express the concept of collaboration among scientists to solve medical problems.
  • Make biomedical research visible
  • Add a layer of metaphoric meaning and would invite the visitors for a closer look would be  viewed as strong.   
  • Have a strong intellectual and poetic dimension. 

 Be complex enough to allow viewers to learn from it over time and provides a sense of  discovery. 

  • ​Express the process of biomedical research moving from theory to practice.

Potential Materials: The selection committee is not interested in artwork that might cause or transfer vibrations or noise.  They are interested in materials that support the artist’s concept.​